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MIT student blogger Mollie B. '06

Once upon a time by Mollie B. '06

Who I was in high school.

Last time, Jon asked,

What kind of high school student were you? Did everyone always come to you for help, expect the best from you, etc?….did you like it or hate it?

I think that’s an interesting question, albeit with the caveat that memories are believed to be strongly modified by later experience. So I’m going to try and cite from primary sources (that is to say, my high school journal) wherever possible. This might be somewhat challenging, considering how much of my high school journal is concerned with boys, but I’ll try valiantly to pick out the pieces that aren’t about being boy-crazy.

First of all, this was me in high school.

I think I look pretty much the same as I do now, which pretty much ensures that I always get carded when I buy beer. I went to the Massachusetts RMV to get a driver’s permit a few weeks ago, and the lady said, “You have to have a co-signer if you’re under 18.” I was like, “I AM TWENTY-TWO AND FIVE-TWELFTHS.”

My high school was a decent suburban Ohio public high school; it wasn’t superb and it wasn’t terrible. My graduating class had 530 kids in it, but there was a small core of smart kids who had been together ever since gifted class in fourth grade. My high school was pretty well-known for the performing arts, and I was heavily involved in them — I was the only kid in my year to make the play and the musical all four years of high school, the only girl to make the competitive show choir my junior year, and the captain of the 40-member flag corps which accessorized the 300-member band.

I primarily ran around in the band/choir/theatre circle. My friends and I were all smart, but we were better-known for being good singers/actors/instrumentalists. I was popular within the performing arts crowd (which, remember, was about 500 kids strong!), and I personally didn’t care one way or another whether the other crowds knew I existed or not. (When I was in elementary school, one of the other kids caught me reading the dictionary, and everybody teased me mercilessly for the rest of third grade. This tends to instill in people either a never-ending desire for popularity or complete apathy toward what other people think. I chose not to care about the opinions of people who weren’t my friends.) My senior year, our musical was Crazy for You, and for the show I had to wear stilettos and a backless slinky gown and sing a rather provocative song. I got a lot of unwanted attention from the popular boys after that. It was mortifying. (Although I did look damn good in the dress.)

I had always liked school, but I never did anything “so I could get into college”. I’m just naturally a perfectionist, and I liked getting A’s. I was also known as someone who would help anybody with homework — most of the time during choir performances or theatre show week, you’d find me backstage with some confused person, making drawings about cell division or correcting the grammar in an English paper. My journal says

There’s only one Latin III class, so Ali and Sarah [my best friends] and I can kick butt together — ok, I can kick butt and do their work for them so it looks like they kick butt.

I put myself under tremendous pressure to get A’s in high school, although that doesn’t mean I actually spent all that much time doing homework. I was good at cutting the corners that needed to get cut, which was good, because I was taking a challenging courseload and doing a zillion extracurriculars at once and generally had a few too many irons in the fire. From the journal:

I am so thoroughly sick of being so busy! I feel like I’m being pulled in twenty different directions: the play, band, ITK [quiz team], Chorale [show choir], English, Biology, Genetics, college applications… the problem with being a polymath is that everyone feels they have the right to a slice of my time. I know I got myself into this, and there’s nothing I would give up — but oh, for some time to myself!

Haha, that sounds a lot like something I would have said at the end of last semester. I still like the time juggling act, even if it gets exhausting after a while.


1. Anonymous asked,

When did you learn to rejoice when you made average grades? When did your mind set change?

You know, I’m not entirely sure. I know it had happened by the beginning of second semester, but I’m not sure when in first semester it happened. (First semester of my freshman year is kind of a blur for me — my high school boyfriend and I were having problems and then broke up, so the whole semester is just a blur of angry phone calls, late nights, and work work work.)

2. Charlotte asked,

Some people choose practicality over passion in selecting courses because they feel that whatever they’re interested in can easily be read in books anyway and therefore the only thing that counts is the final grade. So what will make a course far more rewarding than mere reading?

I’ve always found it much easier to learn from lectures than just from books, because I find it easier to learn when the salient points are picked out for me firsthand. There are some things in science that are confusing, but they’re much easier to get when somebody is telling you which details are critical and which details are just window dressing. Some people are better at learning from books — and I’m very jealous of them!

3. Katie ’10 asked,

This might seem kind of random, but I was just wondering if we really need extra long bed sheets. I’ve heard from a few college students around here that they are actually too long for their beds and that they could have bought regular sheets.

Well, I always used twin XL sheets, and they fit just fine. I never tried regular-length sheets, though, so I don’t know how well they would work. And Christina, a full-size comforter will be fine — you will want as much comforter as possible for the Boston winters! :)

4. Adriane ’10 asked

I’m currently planning on majoring in course 2, but how easy is it to take classes in neuroscience outside of one’s major?

It’s pretty easy to take classes outside your major in general at MIT, and course 9 classes are no exception. Most classes have a formal prerequisite, but a) prereqs are rarely strictly enforced at MIT, so you should take whatever you feel comfortable with taking, and b) if you take 9.01 and/or 24.900, you can take most classes in the department.

5. Anon asked,

You are in neuroscience, right? I’m looking at MIT undergrad, and saw this in the Boston Globe online today

In a letter responding to professors who wanted MIT to investigate the senior professor’s treatment of the job recruit, Hockfield said there are “ongoing tensions among MIT’s neuroscience entities” and suggested that the current situation “threatens ongoing disruption of the collegiality of our academic enterprise.” The letter, dated Monday, was obtained by the Globe.

Is this just jostling between profs, or does it affect undergrad students too? If you work with one prof, will others resent it and not help you or give you good recs?

Oh god, that’s totally just professor politics. Undergrads are definitely not involved in that sort of stuff — if you work with one prof that somebody else doesn’t like, it won’t affect his or her opinion of you in the least. (And to be honest, I don’t see any unusual political maneuverings within the department — the kinds of disagreements which occur between faculty members in the MIT BCS department occur in every other department in every other academic institution in the world. Unfortunate as it is, professors are people too, and when they interact with each other they can be small-minded, petty people.)

7 responses to “Once upon a time”

  1. Helen '10 says:

    Another random question for you Mollie! What is the percentage of MIT students living at dorms owning a TV set (estimated by Mollie)? And how many of them watch TV frequently? I read the MITCable channel list the other day and the basic package is pretty appealing.

  2. thekeri says:

    You took Latin?

  3. thekeri says:

    Okay, my comment got cut short somehow. My point is that you took Latin, so I love you even more now. (I took a year, but I sucked at it and went back to French. Even though I wasn’t all that good at French either…)

  4. anon says:

    thanks for your reply regarding the neuroscience dept; I feel better about it. The article, BTW, is at I should have sent you a link in my comment

  5. Christina says:



    A AE AE AI A. <-okay, that might be wrong.

  6. Christina says:

    I took Latin for two years in junior high et it basically killed my soul. :-X

    Question: did you take any foreign languages at MIT?

    I can appreciate the journal entries. I did way too many extra curricular activities in high school (way way way too many) but my motto was always…if I CAN do this much, why shouldn’t I? I don’t regret it either. smile

  7. Anonymous says:

    Do you know if an MIT undergrad majoring in physics can apply for the MIT grad program in physics?